Study of Religions - Book chapters

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    La conchiglia di San Giacomo
    (Meltemi, 2023-11-10) Padoan, Tatsuma
    This article explores from an ethnosemiotic perspective the pilgrimage practice connected to the Way of St. James in Galicia, Spain, by looking in particular at the use of the scallop shell along the French Camino route. By combining a semiotic and ethnographic approach, and discussing current literature from the anthropology of pilgrimage, the article analyses the concept of "metasymbol". Metasymbols will be defined here as symbols of symbols, in which semantic threads (“isotopies”) are condensed and accumulated, encapsulated into an overarching plane of expression, and finally converging into an object of value (Greimas 1987), the scallop shell. We will show how the scallop shell - worn during the pilgrimage as a sign of distinction for the pilgrims, used as an indexical sign on the road to mark the way to Santiago, and even embodied by practitioners as food or tattoo - becomes an “apparatus of capture” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987), diagrammatically embedding the virtual memory of emerging relations generated during the pilgrimage. The sense of the scallop shell will thus progressively emerge as the ending point of a cumulative network of meaningful relations between people and events, condensing on this metasymbol a semiotic "form of life": an aesthetics of walking and an ethics of becoming, a valorisation of the event and a new philosophy of life, characterising the experience of the pilgrims.
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    Walking the Sutra: A semiotic theory of pilgrimage
    (Routledge, 2023-10-13) Padoan, Tatsuma
    This chapter intends to map, from a semiotic perspective, the interconnections between ethnography, translation, and pilgrimage, by exploring the contemporary practice and revitalisation of a premodern ascetic route in Katsuragi, linked to the 28 sutra mounds of the Lotus Sutra (Katsuragi nijūhasshuku no kyōzuka). To analyse this pilgrimage, the chapter will focus on its actional spheres – targets, subjects, sources, and evaluators of pilgrimage considered as dynamic positions or ‘actants’ . More specifically, it will examine how these positions are constructed and negotiated by human and nonhuman actors, namely pilgrims, places, institutions, deities, and other entities. By exploring the actional spheres of pilgrimage, and the networks and hierarchies emerging from them, the chapter will investigate not only how pilgrims constantly translate a Buddhist scripture into a landscape by walking it, but also how they translate ascetic values acquired in the mountains into their everyday lives, at home and at work, in the private and public domains. Finally, it will analyse the role of ethnographers as translators, themselves engaged in making sense of the flow of pilgrimage through their participant observation and their bodily experience of the environment while learning to perceive a ‘semiotics of the natural world’.
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    Redeeming memory: Neo-Protestant churches and the secret police archives in Romania
    (Routledge, 2021-08-13) Cindrea, Iuliana; Kapaló, James A.; Povedák, Kinga; European Research Council; Horizon 2020
    This article examines the manner in which members of the neo-Protestant churches dealt with the past of their own communities, the importance they ascribed to the archives of the former secret police and how they utilized state security files in order to write histories of their communities during the communist regime. While some have used the archives as a means to highlight the sufferings and persecutions that the neo-Protestant communities endured in an effort to fill the pages of history left blank, others have seen it as the sole repository of the truth about the past and took the responsibility upon themselves of exposing the names of all those community members who collaborated with the Securitate. Unlike the Orthodox Church, which has been accused of trying to keep under lock and key documents that could bring to light controversial issues, the neo-Protestant communities rushed into the archives in a quest for a true history of their own past. The article analyses some of the most important and controversial books that were written by members of various neo-Protestant churches, in which the subject of collaboration was more or less thoroughly addressed. Taken out of context, some of these works seemed like vengeful attempts to purify the neo-Protestant communities of their weakest individuals. For some members it was difficult to comprehend that such an endeavour could come from within the communities themselves, while for others these attempts were nothing more than an attack against the neo-Protestant churches. The nature of the secret police archives, its uses and abuses, as well as measures of transitional justice are other subjects that are dealt with in the present article.
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    If sex were a factor… The Securitate Archives and issues of morality in documents related to religious life
    (Routledge, 2021-08-13) Șincan, Anca; Kapaló, James A.; Povedák, Kinga; European Research Council; Horizon 2020
    The issue of morality is a vector in the analysis of the archival documents related to religion in communism. When the veil of privacy is lifted and the secret is no more, a rich picture unfolds for the researcher. Blackened names, the minimal protection offered to the actors that surface in surveillance files will do little in affording the subject of such files the privacy his/her actions were thought to have been acted in. For clergy and church members alike the moral stick they are measured against is higher than for the rest. It was self-imposed in many cases. Documents of the CNSAS archives on religion abound with stories about sexuality in many forms. Judges of the morality of the life of “God’s men” the Securitate officers will highlight the failures of the clergy based on guidelines that pertain to the church rather than the Securitate. This article is an overview of the way in which morality permeated the Securitate documents on religious life in communist Romania. How it was used and the reasons behind it. It answers questions related to the disappearance of the morality standard in other archives that dealt specifically with religion in communism.
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    Shifting images of a harmful sect: Operations against Inochentism in Soviet Ukraine, 1920-23
    (Routledge, 2021-08-13) Lisnic, Dumitru; Kapaló, James A.; Povedák, K; European Research Council; Horizon 2020
    This chapter concerns anti-sectarian policies designed by local Soviet authorities in the early 1920’s. The case under analysis exemplifies how a set of contrasting archival images of a religious group were constructed at different hierarchical levels of the Soviet administration. The archival image produced at the micro-level went on to form the centre of propaganda narratives and repressive policies against this religious group throughout the Soviet period right down to the end of the regime. This study aims to contribute to the already existing scholarship on early Soviet repressive mechanisms, which although impressively detailed, does not explore the role of functionaries and police officials at the micro-level in shaping the regime’s perception and understanding of specific cohorts of population, especially of religious sectarians, targeted by repressive policies. The chapter is centred on the case of Inochentism, a religious movement that emerged amongst Romanian-speaking peasants at the beginning of the 20th century in the northern part of today’s Odessa Oblast of Ukraine.